Bryan has been producing maple syrup for more than a half a century. He took over the family dairy in the early 1980s and, since then, has ensured legacy of Droscha Sugarbush one spring at a time. What once was a hobby has become a full-time job, and Bryan now spends much of his time in the sugarhouse heading day-to-day operations. When he’s not there, he and his wife Apryl can be found sharing family’s passion for maple syrup and putting smiles on people’s faces one sip of syrup at a time at local stores and farmers markets. Apryl is a key player in the success of the business, handling online orders, farmers markets, and product finishing.
Never one to be idle, Casey splits his time between the sugarbush in Mason and East Lansing, where he is the Associate Director of Research & Development for Northstar Cooperative. Casey focuses on ways to improve food production and livestock diagnosis through advances in molecular biology. Building the family maple business and educating people about their food and where it comes from has become Casey’s personal mission. In the past few years, he’s helped bring Droscha Sugarbush into the market by coordinating efforts to upgrade its production facilities to meet increasing demands as well as leading the business and marketing side of the operation. He’s most at home firing the evaporator late into the night, surrounded by good friends.
The big sister, Jessica spends her days in the classroom preparing preschoolers for success. After school, Jessica, her husband Justin, and daughters Elizabeth and Mckinley are around about every facet of the sugarbush, from helping split wood in the winter to collecting sap to bottling fresh product for local farmer markets. Her interests on the farm extend beyond the sugarbush, where she helps in the farm’s day-to-day beef and hay operations.
Bryce is the resident small engine mechanic and vacuum line engineer, professions that come in handy around any sugarbush. He and his wife Chelsea help with all aspects of the operation, from splitting wood in the offseason to maintaining the sap lines in the spring as well as bottling and selling product at local markets.
Droscha Farms began on a chance.
In 1911, Rudolph and Olive Droscha packed up their family and moved by horse and buggy from Anderson, Indiana to a small farm in Mason, Michigan. The farm started out humble—a few cows, pigs and sheep, with enough crops to feed the animals and some extra to sell.
Rudolph and Olive’s son Wilson married Dorothy Darrow in 1938, and the couple later took over operation of the farm. By 1960, Droscha Farms had grown to 220 acres and included a sizable dairy operation that was the family’s main source of income. Wilson and Dorothy’s son Dorson married Eileen Gregersen in 1961 and the new couple moved next door. Dorson continued to expand the farm, renting nearby land to grow additional crops. Throughout the years, Dorson and Eileen had five children—Bryan, Brett, Kimberly, Kevin and Matthew. In 1980, Bryan took over the family business. Today, he and his wife Apryl run the farm, which includes a beef cattle operation and a growing hopyard along with the sugarbush.
Maple syrup has always been an integral part of the family’s life, from the children collecting buckets of sap to being the resident product taste testers. The process of making syrup is taught by doing. Parents and grandparents educate the younger generation about all things maple syrup, from how to tap a tree to firing the evaporator as adults.
Before the construction of the sugarhouse, maple syrup production took place in the woods or the farmyard, with syrup being boiled in an open pan. After the initial boiling, the syrup was taken to the family kitchen to be finished to the correct consistency.
The Droscha family purchased their first evaporator in the spring of 1962. That year, they acquired more pails and supplies and went to the woods to tap more trees than ever before. The sap was brought to the house by tractor and wagon and, for the first of countless times, the family fired up the evaporator.
Since then, the sugarhouse has been remodeled and the evaporator has been upgraded. Although the family has purchased bigger evaporators and replaced some pails with pipeline, they still boil the sap over a roaring hardwood fire. Nowadays, the sugarbush has become a family livelihood that continues to grow along with the younger generation. To many friends and relatives who stop by on brisk spring nights to lend a hand, the sugarbush will always be a cozy place full of good times and the warm aromas of wood smoke and maple.